Writer in Residence

Binaakwe Giizis - Moon of Falling Leaves

By Waubgeshig Rice

Happy October! In Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language), October is commonly known in many places as "Binaakwe Giizis", or the Moon of Falling Leaves. Anishinaabemowin is a very poetic and descriptive language, and something as simple as naming the full moons that occur monthly throughout the year is very beautiful and meaningful. Flipping ahead a few months in the contemporary calendar, the period around March is also known as "Onaabenii Giizis", or the Moon of the Crusted Snow. That's also the title of my new novel, which is officially out tomorrow! 

I’m thrilled and honoured to introduce myself and my new book, Moon of the Crusted Snow. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the Open Book team for inviting me to be the Writer in Residence for the month of October. The timing is very fortuitous, with this book coming out now and a steady schedule of readings and events throughout the rest of the fall. This is a terrific opportunity for me to share some of the background of this story with you as discussion around it begins to emerge. I also plan to peel back the curtain a bit to give you a glimpse into my writing process and background. I’d also like to explore some wider issues and themes as they relate to me as an Anishinaabe storyteller and author.

Moon of the Crusted Snow is a story about a distant northern Anishinaabe community that goes dark. It loses power and communication, becoming cut off from the wider urban realm to the south and other communities around it. Food starts to run low and patience quickly wears thin. As the blackout extends, young men from the community return from the south to describe the chaos unfolding in the city. They’re followed by a mysterious stranger days later who imposes his will on the community. More visitors follow, and the community is forced to make crucial decisions about its future, while turning to the land and Anishinaabe tradition for guidance and survival. 

This thriller of sorts is published by the great ECW Press. It’s a story I had been imagining for years after reading a handful of post-apocalyptic stories over the years and wanting to explore that experience in fiction through an Anishinaabe lens. I began writing it in 2015, and a little more than three years later, it’s ready for the world. I will write a more in-depth post later about its origin, and I’ll devote other posts to some of its themes - like language, survival, and the concept of apocalypse. For the moment, I’m basking in publication elation! Having this book out is a dream come true and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to share this story. 

I’ll be on the road a lot over the fall to read from and discuss Moon of the Crusted Snow at various festivals and events. So the book will be pretty much constantly on my mind while I’m here as Writer in Residence, and I’m glad I’ll be able to share my experiences and thoughts with you readers as I discuss it with people throughout the land. I’ve already shared it at festivals in Eden Mills, Toronto, and Kingston, and the response has honestly been quite overwhelming and heartwarming. The teenage me on the rez 20 years ago could have never imagined this happening. I’ll write more about that journey here as well. 

So please keep your eyes on Open Book over the next month as I share this story and my experiences with you. I have a long list of topics I plan to write about, and I hope you’ll take the time to read my posts. I also want to make this residency as interactive as possible, so I’ll devote lots of space to your questions. I'll leave you with one more Ojibwe word before I return: chi-miigwech (big thanks)!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent the bulk of his journalism career at CBC, most recently as host of Up North, the afternoon radio program for northern Ontario. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.